Letter of the Day | Intimidated by stigma, insulated by privilege


The US Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v Wade is the victory of a minority, evangelical group in one of the more plural, modern societies.

It is a decision hostile to women, indifferent to social justice, alien to science, and contemptuous of democracy.

It will further subordinate women, substantially increase maternal mortality, especially among black and brown women, and significantly increase poverty.

I can think of only one middle-income country in which abortion was legal and then reversed, Romania. The results were horrific. The more former Romanian leader Nicolae Ceaușescu enforced his pro-natalist policy, the higher the maternal mortality climbed.

In Romania, abortion-related mortality was 18 per 100,000 live births in 1965, when abortion was legal. Abortion was made illegal in 1966 and abortion-related mortality rose steadily to 147 by 1990. When Ceausescu was overthrown in 1990 and abortion was again legalised, abortion-related mortality fell drastically to 42 by 1991.

Two changes in technology may spare women in the US some of this horror – one digital, the Internet, and the other medical, the pill. But for too many it will be just as it was in Romania.

Restrictive laws do not effectively prevent abortions, but they, very effectively, make them unsafe.

The minority evangelical victory is a tribute to strategy, discipline, and political opportunism. It has alarming signals for the Caribbean, which is already on an accelerated path of fundamentalism.

More than 60 per cent of Caribbean women have at least one abortion by age 44. Which almost certainly means the figure for men causing those unwanted pregnancies is about the same. Abortion is a majority phenomenon.

Yet the hypocrisy leaves each woman alone, lonely, ashamed and without support. Stigma silences all women, and privilege insulates many.

The asymmetry is wretched. Women with the power to change the law have no need to change it; while women with the need to change the law have no power to change it.

Our real problem is not the loud shouts of a handful of fundamentalists. Our far greater problem is the silence of the majority and, in particular, the liberals in leadership of religious institutions. The enemy is us.

Tom Harpur, a Canadian theologian, pointed out that religion can be awfully cruel. Now we know. Where is the grace and the kindness? In what way is this religious intolerance different from the Taliban? Where is the separation of Church and State?

If ever there was a time for pro-choice forces in the Caribbean to gain a sense of urgency it is today.


Dr Fred Nunes

Board Advisor –

Caribbean Family Planning

Former Head of Management

Studies at UWI, Mona